Senior Corps Shares Innovative Ways ‘Safe Volunteering’ Continues

Grey Bears volunteer Charles Butler waits with his wife Alice as their car is loaded with groceries before they leave to deliver needed supplies to Santa Cruz County seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Shmuel Thaler/ Santa Cruz Sentinel)
Deborah Cox-Roush, Senior Corps Director

A message to our Senior Corps grantees:

I’d like to share some examples of how different Senior Corps organizations are finding the light in this difficult time. Thank you for all you do.

I have such admiration and respect for the volunteer service that continues in communities through your programs. Each day, I am in awe while reading about how many of you are finding new ways for your volunteers to continue to participate in their regular service activities or you are finding innovative ways to transition what would normally be face-to-face service to “safe volunteering” service activities.

Not only are you finding ways to support your volunteers during this time, but you are finding ways to continue the vital services you perform. Thank you for packing and delivering groceries; taking meals to homebound individuals; providing curbside pickup service for individuals; providing telephone reassurance wellness calls to check on seniors living alone, along with the other activities too numerous to list.

We are seeing so much creativity in how you’re delivering services that I wanted to share a few examples:

  • Emergency Volunteer Recruitment: Working remotely, one RSVP program partnered with the local Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate emergency volunteer recruitment and nonprofit needs assessment efforts to combat the effects of the pandemic on seniors, the disadvantaged, and others at-risk throughout three counties. Volunteers register with RSVP, which then sends them to the nonprofits most in need of support
  • Sewing Mask and Gowns: Programs are recruiting volunteers and sewing clubs to make face masks to be used by medical professionals, first responders, senior centers, and other facilities in need. Some are also sewing hospital gowns
  • Medicare Counsel: Counselors were granted access to work phones so they could continue their telephone counseling
  • Social Distance Transportation: Volunteers continue providing transportation to critical medical appointments, pharmacies, and grocery stores. Volunteers and clients are provided gloves and masks, and clients ride in the back seat as far from the volunteer as possible
  • VITA Tax Service: Three days per week, volunteers provide a pick-up and drop-off service for tax clients
  • Quick Action Groups: RSVP leaders, along with other local community organization leaders, mobilized to develop a Quick Action Group to provide services for high-risk populations affected by the pandemic
  • Monthly In-Service/Recognition: Programs holding monthly in-service and recognition activity via Zoom conference calls and mailing newsletters, timesheets, and recognition certificates to volunteers
  • Developing Intergenerational Relationships: Middle and high school students are being recruited to make phone calls and develop relationships with RSVP volunteers
  • Money Management Program: Transitioned in-person volunteer money management assistance service to provide tele-bill paying assistance to include a review of possible COVID-19 fraud and scams affecting elder clients. Volunteers also helped develop a partner COVID Transportation Task Force to address essential medical appointments such as dialysis, radiation, and chemotherapy treatments
  • Pen Pal Program: Program director and school teachers worked together to ensure that the Foster Grandparents could remain in touch with their students by writing letters and emails to each other
  • Senior Care Calls: RSVP program developed a “Senior Care Calls” initiative to check on isolated and homebound seniors
  • Senior Social Support: Senior Companions shifted their schedules to provide wellness checks and social support to their clients via phone. Companions and staff make daily calls to provide wellness checks, information and referral support, and socialization. They also continue to assist their clients with grocery deliveries, medication deliveries, helping reschedule doctor appointments, enrolling clients for mobile meals, and connecting folks to mental health support services through these phone visits
  • Volunteer-to-Volunteer Calls: As many live alone, volunteers are placing wellness checks by calling their colleagues to ensure that they are safe and healthy
  • Stress-Reduction Support: Using email, volunteers distribute information on depression and stress reduction, call to inquire about any anxiety issues, and provide referrals to call for help

Again, these are only just a few examples of how you are continuing to serve your communities. Activities like these deserve a spotlight. I am so proud to be your national leader at this moment.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. And remember, America Works Together!

Deborah Cox-Roush is the Director of Senior Corps.

Back to Top